People often forget that Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Zayn Malik and Louis Tomlinson aren’t boys anymore. They are men in their 20s. Just as they’ve matured, so has their music. From the 90s R&B inspired “Stockholm Syndrome” and alt-rock “Night Changes” to indie-pop “Clouds” and 80s glam-rock inspired “Steal My Girl,” it’s clear that the days of One Direction’s bubble gum pop music are officially over. Excluding the first track, there is not one “na na na” to be heard.
FOUR jumps straight into a folk-rock anthem with the second song, “Ready To Run.” The chorus has a U2 sensibility reminiscent of the opening to “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” The poesy of the song is evident with lyrics like, “There’s a lightning in your eyes I can’t deny. Then there’s me inside a sinking boat running out of time.” This fear of loss runs through the entire album on many tracks, including, “Where Do Broken Hearts Go,” “Fool’s Gold” and “Spaces.”
Though most of the album was primarily written by the boys, Ed Sheeran wrote the fourth track, “18.” Right off the bat, the song has Sheeran’s signature style of acoustic and poetic British folk-rock. This is not Sheeran’s first time writing for One Direction. For fans of both artists, it’s nice to see this collaboration continue to blossom.
The eight track, “No Control,” ventures into garage band style pop-punk, a genre One Direction has not explored before. It’s a shame they only play stadiums now, because a song like this should be played in a general admission venue. In another first for the band, Tomlinson sings melody on the chorus, showcasing his prodigious talent.
Fans were disappointed when the track listing for FOUR emerged because they expected to hear a song in which Malik rapped. The 11th track, “Stockholm Syndrome,” is the next best thing. This song is old school R&B back when it was influenced by disco and soul. A repetitive fast-paced guitar lick opens the track giving it an electronica feel. This shows the vast musical influences of the band. With this diversity, who knows, maybe there will be a symphony on the next album.
Though One Direction tops the pop charts, their music is not just for teens anymore. They are combining music that has inspired them throughout the years to create a more mature sound. They are not afraid to bring back classics or experimentally combine musical styles. With albums like this, the quintet can finally show critics that they are serious musicians.
You can purchase a CD or buy concert tickets here.
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